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SMU (2-3) at Tulane (0-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 1:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (73,208) -- New Orleans, Louisiana. Television: CSS. Home Record: SMU 1-2, Tulane 0-3 Away Record: SMU 1-1, Tulane 0-2. Neutral Record: SMU 0-0, Tulane 1-0. Conference Record: SMU 1-0, Tulane 0-1. Series Record: Tulane leads 11-8.
GAME NOTES: It has been over a year since Tulane last posted a victory and the Green Wave will yet again try to end that streak when the SMU Mustangs invade the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for a Conference USA matchup.
Although not off to a particularly successful start this season, SMU's 2-3 overall record is leaps and bounds ahead of Tulane. The Mustangs are coming off a 17-0 win against UTEP, which earned the squad its first conference victory of the season. SMU had lost back-to-back games leading up to that contest. This will be the first of only two games outside of the state of Texas for SMU.
The last time Tulane ended up on the winning side of a scoreboard was in September of 2011 when the Green Wave routed UAB, 49-10. Since that time the Green Wave have lost 15 straight games, including a 41-13 loss to Louisiana last time out. The losing streak is the longest active streak in the nation.
Tulane does have the benefit of leading the all-time series. The Green Wave have won 11 of 19 previous meetings. Last season Tulane fell in a 45-24 decision to the Mustangs.
Although SMU ranks near the middle of the conference in total offense this season, the Mustangs have been the third worst team in terms of yards per play, averaging 4.59 yards per snap this season. The Mustangs are ranked seventh in the conference in scoring (22.4 ppg). That number has been inflated by a 52-0 win over Stephen F. Austin earlier this season. In the last three games, the Mustangs have only scored 36 points combined.
Garrett Gilbert is the man under center for SMU. He has not been particularly effective this season, completing only 49.6 percent of his passes, while having twice as many interceptions (10) as touchdown passes (five). Conner Preston is the backup, but has seen limited action with only nine pass attempts.
Jeremy Johnson (26 receptions, 265 yards, TD) and Darius Johnson (24 receptions, 235 yards, TD) are the two most targeted receivers on the squad although neither are averaging more than 10.2 yards per reception. Gehrig Dieter has only seven receptions but has managed to create more yards on those catches averaging 19.1 yards per reception.
In the backfield the Mustangs are anchored by Zach Line who has rushed for 427 yards and three touchdowns this season. He has had 100 carries which is 10 times as many as the second-leading rusher, Luke Seeker.
SMU recorded its first shutout of the season in last weekend's win over UTEP which lifted the Mustangs to the second best scoring defense in the conference (26.2 ppg) behind UCF. The team's total defensive efforts have been good for only sixth in the conference (425.0 ypg) although the unit has been the second best team against the run, surrendering only 681 rushing yards this season.
Randall Joyner, who was named C-USA Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, is the team's leading tackler (41), while also owning team highs in interceptions (three) and passes defended (six). Taylor Reed has been solid in pass rushing, collecting five tackles for loss and three sacks.
Tulane is at the bottom of virtually every offensive category not just in C-USA, but the nation overall. The Green Wave rank last in scoring offense (9.0 ppg) and total offense (195.0 ypg). The Green Wave have been pathetic on the ground, managing only 73 yards. The Green Wave are also the only team at the FBS level that has yet to record 1,000 total yards this season.
Three different players have gotten a shot at quarterback. D.J. Ponder was the most recent signal caller to get a start. Ponder threw for 173 yards, while completing just 35.9 percent of his passes with two interceptions in the loss to Louisiana. Ryan Griffin (67.2 completion percentage, 314 yards, TD, INT) and Devin Powell (.526, 255 yards, TD, 3 INTs) have also made at least one start.
It is unfortunate that Tulane has been unable to find consistency under center with talent on the outside. Ryan Grant has caught 24 passes this season for 331 yards and Justyn Shackleford has had at least 76 yards receiving in each of the last two games.
A large part of the Green Wave's rushing woes is the amount of sacks the offensive line has allowed (16) with each of the three quarterbacks having negative rushing totals this season. Rob Kelley (143 yards) is the only player with more than 100 yards rushing.
Tulane is only marginally better defensively on a national scale. The Green Wave are the fourth worst squad in terms of scoring defense (42.4 ppg) and the 10th worst squad in total defense (481.4 ypg). The Green Wave are also allowing teams to convert on third down at far too high a rate (51 percent).
Zach Davis is the leader in most categories, including tackles (37), sacks (two) and interceptions (one). Austen Jacks is the team's leader in tackles for loss (5.5).
About the only advantage that Tulane has in this matchup is that it will be playing on its home turf. SMU has not been stellar this season but the Mustangs won't need to be against the Green Wave.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 31, Tulane 17
10/10 11:01:04 ET